Open Government

Open Government

Open Government

After establishing strong footing in Access and Education, the next step for a digital city is to cultivate an open, collaborative government culture and technology structure. Open Government supports transparency and innovation, enabling the public to develop efficient, creative solutions to shared civic challenges.

Since the Digital Roadmap's introduction in 2011, the City of New York has led the nation in Open Government achievements, including the release of thousands of public data sets, the convening of the first municipal hackathons and Mayor Bloomberg's passage of Local Law 11, the most progressive open data legislation in the country.

The impact of these initiatives are far-reaching. Beyond the development of a compelling new mobile app using City APIs or an eye-opening data visualization, the most lasting outcome is the bonds formed among technologists, government employees and civic innovators.

NYC OpenData

A technology framework that enables developers to effectively engage with City data is crucial to an Open Government strategy. Unlocking the vast data resources at the City's disposal also provides a competitive advantage to entrepreneurs creating value and jobs in New York City. With this in mind, several months after the release of the 2011 Digital Roadmap, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications unveiled NYC OpenData, a platform supported by technology from Socrata that offers access to API-enabled data sets and a variety of tools for interpreting, displaying and visualizing data. At its launch, the platform offered 350 data sets; in 2013, the count has grown to 2,077.

Data sets include operational resources as well as performance metrics providing the building blocks for active civic participation and enabling the development of functional tools to improve daily life. Popular data sets include restaurant inspection results and detailed maps of the City's public parks. If users cannot find what they are looking for, they are able to suggest a data set via a public forum on the website.

In addition, NYC OpenData now offers free, public access to the valuable, high-demand MapPLUTO (Primary Land Use Tax Lot Output) and ACRIS (Automated City Register Information System) logic and databases. MapPLUTO provides Citywide land use and geographic data from a range of agencies, merged with tax lot information. MapPLUTO information types include mass appraisal, landmark and zoning data. ACRIS offers digital access to City Register property records and document images related to real estate, including deeds, mortgages and leases.

Top Ten Most Popular Data Sets from

  1. WiFi Hotspot Locations
  2. 311 Service Requests from 2010 to Present
  3. Subway Entrances
  4. Map of Parks
  5. Electric Consumption by Zip Code - 2010
  6. Zip Codes Map
  7. MTA Data
  8. Restaurant Inspection Results
  9. Basic Description of Colleges and Universities
  10. SAT (College Board) 2010 School Level Results

Photo caption: NYC Open Data at

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

In addition to more than 2,000 data sets, the City of New York today offers access to six Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to the public, enabling developers to build real-time applications that enhance urban life. APIs require Developer Key registration via the NYC Developer Portal, and include:

  • Checkbook NYC 2.0 - The Checkbook NYC 2.0 API offers access to the annual budget of the City of New York, including documentation links for contracts, spending and payroll domains.
  • City Hall Data Feed - This RSS Feed provides the latest news, announcements and emergency alerts issued by the Mayor's press office.
  • DOT Data Feed - This API provides access to a range of data resources from the Department of Transportation (DOT), including traffic advisories, street construction worksites, the bicycle parking and cycling map, Staten Island Ferry status, alternate side parking and parking regulation status, low bridge locations, truck routes, and closed streets. The API also offers feeds from traffic cameras and traffic speed detectors.
  • HPD Data Feed - Maintained by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, this feed offers access to data related to buildings, charges, complaints, litigation, registrations and violations.
  • Geosupport API - Geosupport allows developers to use Department of City Planning's location-naming conventions, correlating addresses to a Building Identification Number (BIN) and using BIN as a key to link all that the City knows about a location.
  • Open311 Inquiry API - Open311 provides access to City services, facilities and frequently asked questions based on the information of the City 311 customer service department.

Developer Engagement: Hackathons, Portals and Competitions

Providing the raw materials needed to collaborate is critical, but the greater challenge is catalyzing the participation of the developer and data science community to engage with that data in meaningful, productive ways. Through a combination of events, competitions and digital tools, the City of New York has launched several initiatives to support successful outcomes from Open Government initiatives.

NYC Developer Portal

An effective online platform that supports the developer community and connects it to Open Data resources and information is crucial to ensuring constructive outcomes from Open Government initiatives. Following the success of the NYC OpenData Tech Standards wiki, which provided valuable public input into the City's data strategy, the City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and the Mayor's Office of Data Analytics launched the NYC Developer Portal (, a tool that brings together resources and feedback tools to support technologists using City data. The platform includes:

  • User account management, including the ability to register, obtain Developer Keys for City APIs, track usage statistics and submit an application to the App Showcase
  • An App Showcase that includes both official and publicly submitted mobile applications developed using City data
  • A directory of all official City APIs, with descriptions and comment functionality
  • A forum for developer feedback, questions and suggestions
  • Centralized links to the City's OpenData Platform, NYC BigApps and the OpenData Tumblr presenting compelling data visualizations
  • A listing of upcoming technology events relevant to Open Government initiatives


In the summer of 2011, months after the introduction of the Roadmap, the City of New York convened the first municipal hackathon in the United States, Reinvent A hackathon is a collaborative developer event in which technologists build tools serving a shared goal within a short, specified time constraint - often culminating in public demonstrations and prizes for winning innovations. By creating an environment that encourages experimentation, minimizes risk and establishes a timetable that requires rapid prototyping, hackathons are a valuable way to spark organizational innovation.

The aim of the Reinvent hackathon, organized by NYC Digital, was to design and build a more modern iteration of, the City's website. Over 100 volunteer designers, developers, technology partners and City employees participated in the 48-hour event, hosted in coworking space donated by General Assembly. The outcomes set a new bar for civic collaboration, as teams delivered 12 working prototypes of new websites and established design references that would pave the way for the modern, intuitive user experience of the recently updated Winning designs exhibited a user-centric design informed by web traffic analytics and current interaction standards such as predictive search and mobile design. Reinvent proved a powerful way for the public to impact New York City's digital strategy, helping to shape the future of civic engagement and creating lasting bonds between government employees and technologists.

Building on the success of Reinvent, the City subsequently hosted Reinvent Green. Reinvent Green, the brainchild of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability, was jointly hosted with NYU-Poly, Brooklyn Beta and NYC Digital, and drew over 100 participants who produced 13 functional web and app prototypes that aimed to make the lives of New Yorkers greener and greater. To provide inspiration and strategic guidance, participants were equipped with extensive app wishlists that reflected public demands and information requests. Concepts ranged from FreshFix, a location-based mobile tool that allows the public to find green markets nearby, to GreenCan, an app that enables the public to enter any kind of trash item and identify the closest appropriate waste receptacle. The Reinvent Green hackathon led to the release of 20 new, high-value data sets, and the apps developed will serve as models for future tools.

Photo caption: Beacon, winner of Best Visual Design. Image courtesy of frog

The third and most recent event in the Reinvent series was the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, an unprecedented competition to engage the brightest minds in design, technology and urban planning to imagine the future of public, urban communications systems. With the City's network of nearly 8,000 public pay telephones as its sandbox, contest hosts Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications asked participants to create prototypes that served the evolving communications needs of a diverse public and provided critical support in emergency situations. Participants had three months to complete and digitally submit their concepts and benefited from background resources and public information sessions with City officials such as the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, the Department of City Planning and the Department of Transportation. At the conclusion of the challenge, the City received more than 125 outstanding submissions, and with the help of the competition's judging panel, named six winners. Several participants developed impressive physical prototypes, with features including Wi-Fi mesh networks, mobile device and electric vehicle charging stations, community art installations, urban environment sensors and displays with gesture recognition to increase hygiene.

The winning concepts of Reinvent Payphones will be incorporated into the formal Request for Proposals to be issued by the City of New York when the City's current franchise expires in 2014.  Thanks to the creativity and vision of hundreds of designers, architects, technologists and researchers, New York City has an opportunity to chart the future of public communications in urban areas aided by this collaborative public planning process.

Since the introduction of the Digital Roadmap, the City has independently hosted six hackathons, including events organized by NYC BigApps and the Department of Consumer Affairs. In addition, the City has participated in more than 20 external hackathons, ranging from HackNY to Techcrunch Disrupt-fostering deeper collaboration with the technology community.

Open Government

NYC BigApps: A Competition to Spark Innovations

Now in its fourth year, NYC BigApps was one of the first public application competitions to launch in the United States, providing incentives for the creation of digital tools fueled by public data. NYC BigApps capitalizes on the City's landmark open data initiatives, offering prizes and exposure that help to encourage new businesses, critical tools and broader awareness of the valuable data offered by the City.

For the fourth NYC BigApps, DoITT and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) partnered with CollabFinder, a locally-based platform for matching independent projects and talented team members. 2013 participants were asked to address the theme of "BigIssues," focusing on developing apps that improve Jobs and Economic Mobility, Lifelong Learning, Healthy Living, and Sustainable Living for City residents. With 517 participants, 120 projects, $150,000 in prize money, 42 data providers and 13 events throughout the year, this year's BigApps competition was the most successful event to-date.

Select BigApps NYC 2013 Winners
ChildCare Desk
Helping Hands
Hired in NY

*Overall Winner

Introducing Code Corps:
Linking Volunteer Technologists with Lifesaving Digital Projects

Open government initiatives take on a different dimension during emergency situations, as public and private sectors work together to deliver critical information and build powerful tools. During Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, the availability of accurate, actionable open data such as hurricane evacuation zones enabled vital City updates to reach millions more people than through City channels alone.  Perhaps the most crucial examples are the various third-party interactive hurricane evacuation zone maps that allowed the public to input an address and determine evacuation status instantly.

In addition to the City's own powerful map, built using the Google Maps API, several other external entities expanded the visibility of this information, including Google, The New York Times and Altogether, these tools reached millions more New Yorkers, leveraging existing audiences and delivering factual information from City sources. This decentralized, collaborative approach is at the heart of Open Government, and engages non-government entities as active partners in innovative service delivery.

Code Corps

Building on these successes, and accelerating the ability of New York City government to partner on technology initiatives beyond those enabled by the NYC OpenData platform, in February 2013, Mayor Bloomberg announced the launch of Code Corps. Inspired by Hurricane Sandy, when hundreds of volunteers offered their technical expertise to support City disaster response and recovery efforts, Code Corps is a group of technology companies, nonprofits and academic institutions with advance legal clearance and strategic vetting that enables them to work with the City in emergency situations. Currently, interested partners include:

  • Code for America, NYC Brigade
  • Codecademy
  • Columbia, Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering
  • Cornell Tech
  • Etsy
  • Facebook
  • General Assembly
  • Homepolish NYC
  • Kaggle
  • MongoDB
  • New York Tech Meetup
  • New York University, Department of Computer Science
  • NYU-Poly, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association
  • Octopart
  • Rent the Runway
  • Sparkrelief
  • Twitter NY

To support Code Corps, and to collaborate with the external partners on team-building projects during non-emergency situations, the Mayor's Office of Data Analytics and NYC Digital partnered to launch the Data Advisory & Research Taskforce (DART), a group of the City's foremost data experts. DART meets monthly to discuss data policy, strategy, partnerships and new ideas to advance the City's Open Government efforts.

DART Members

Emily Ashton, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Jeff Chen, Fire Department
Christopher Corcoran, Mayor's Office of Data Analytics
Joshua Florsheim, Department of Buildings
Michael Flowers, Mayor's Office of Data Analytics
Lauren Givner, NYC Service
Rachel Haot, NYC Digital
Ivy Li, NYC Digital
Jacqueline Lu, Department of Parks and Recreation
Jim McConnell, Office of Emergency Management
Michael Porter, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Colin Reilly. Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications
Lynn Seirup, Office of Emergency Management
Daniel Starobin, Department of Sanitation
Katherine Winningham, Law Department

By the Numbers

2,077 data sets on NYC OpenData platform
6 application programming interfaces (APIs) available to public
125 submissions and six winners in reinvent payphones design challenge
$150K in prize money for NYC BigApps 2013, drawing over 500 participants and generating 120 projects